Wood Mulch And Termites – How To Treat Termites In Mulch

Termites are alarmed because the nest was destroyed.
Image by chyball

By Karen Boness, Owner of Wild Willow Landscape Design, ISA Certified Arborist, Certified Permaculture Designer

It’s a well-known fact that termites feast on wood and other substances with cellulose. If termites get into your house and are left unabated, they can wreck the structural parts of a home. Nobody wants that. Many people are concerned about termites in mulch piles. Does mulch cause termites? If so, we wonder how to treat termites in mulch.

Does Mulch Cause Termites?

You may, on occasion, see termites in mulch piles. But mulch does not cause termites. And termites don’t typically thrive in mulch piles. Termites typically pre-exist deep underground in moist environments. They tunnel through the earth to find woody food products for their food.

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Mulch typically dries out enough that it is not a conducive environment for termites to build a nest. Termites in mulch piles are possible only if the pile is constantly kept very moist. A more realistic termite risk is caused by piling mulch too high up against your siding so that it provides a bridge over the termiticide treated foundation and into the house.

Large pieces of wood, boards or pressure treated railroad ties are even more conducive to hosting a termite nest than mulch piles.

How to Treat Termites in Mulch

Do not spray insecticides into your mulch. Mulch and its decomposition process are very important to the health of the soil, trees and other plants. Insecticides kill all the beneficial organisms in your soil and mulch. That is not a good thing.

It is best to maintain a low mulch buffer area from 6”-12” wide around the perimeter of your house. This will stop termite bridges. Some experts recommend no mulch at all in this buffer area while others say a 2” max mulch layer around your house is fine.

Keep this area dry. Don’t water directly in the perimeter zone of your house. Remove large wood logs, boards and railroad ties that are stored against your house for future DIY projects. Keep an eye out for termites as a matter of course. If you start to see termites regularly, call in a pest control expert to inspect the situation.

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